Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Great Game, Waterloo Revisited.

 Surprisingly I am a modest person, not prone to crowing, but the sense of relief with the completion of my command for next year's THE GREAT GAME, WATERLOO REPLAYED in Glasgow made we want to post the event. Considering I was starting from scratch in July this year I do feel like I have earned a little pat on the back. All I am waiting for now is two large limber bases for the Garde artillery and my command is complete.With commanders and sundry little attachments it comes to a total of 377 figures.
 I do have one concern and that's the wargame rule; newly painted figures ALWAYS perform badly. It would be terrible to see my Grade brigade leg it on the first day of battle, perhaps I should obtain so SPECIAL dice for the day.
 Its a shame that they will be only used once by me, but hopefully they will find a good home after the Waterloo weekend which is shaping up to be quite an event with decent media interest already. Perhaps I should go on a diet, I understand television puts a few pounds on you. So hopefully I can get back to my ECW project, after I have painted up some new ACW union figures.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Great Model Railway Challenge.

                    The Great Model Railway Challenge. [crap name for a decent watch]

  Watching anything hobby related on the television usually ends up as a toe curling spectacle with the presenters taking great pleasure in highlighting the eccentricity of the hobbyists and generally letting them talk themselves into confirming just how weird some people are who like unusual hobbies.Like nutters on the last bus home.
 When I saw that there was to be a series called The Great Model Railway Challenge I suspected it would follow the pattern used for re-enacters, computer gamers and sadly wargamers.
 The first episode tended to confirm my cynical suspicions as the producers wheeled out a group of serious geeks resplendent in the obligatory black and far away stares.
 But I stuck at the series and as each leg of the challenge took place and I have become more impressed in the way the whole series has been conducted.
 Yes there was the obligatory, 'lets take the piss out of these geeks' by introducing a superfluous craft something useful from this rubbish I've found leg.
  To the credit of the railway modelers they took it in their stride with some clubs actually refusing to take part in the attempt to dumb down their hobby. It didnt help them, they still got knocked out.
 Each week three teams of railway modelers are challenged to create a fully working display in three days using a theme set by the programmers.
  I have been impressed by the ingenuity and abilities of the club members although I was distracted by other items on show when a 'Steam Punk??? modelling club brought along two women dressed in basques. The ploy didnt work and they didnt get through, mind there display was unfinished. Must have been the feathers they wore.
 What really impressed me was the actual layouts they produced and the speed they were able to make great looking realistic terrain.Sadly as usual the actual figures were up to their usual standard of naff figures badly painted.
One team displayed the French Imperial Garde Grenadiers tramping over some beautiful fields [ don't ask] that looked like they had been painted by a drunken chimpanzee. How does that happen? These modelers make wonderful working models with great looking backdrops and models and then stick crap figures all over the place. A bit like the old Subutteo fan figures.
 So how is this wargame related? Well these clubs were in the main very good and I now want a railway layout. It wont happen, but the clubs got me interested in their hobby which was a good thing. Give it a go, the terrain was inspiring.
Could there ever be a wargame programme using a similar challenge? I doubt it. But wargames clubs refighting battles from history in some sort of knockout competition could be entertaining. Imagine a Blackpowder challenge fighting the main battles of the Napoleonic Wars?
 Somehow I know that certain wargamers would shoot the hobby in the foot by insisting on turning up decked out bizarrely or storming off after a hissy fit. Still it would make good television. Now if I can only find some scantily dressed basque wearing women to be on my team.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Battle of Kernstown, Blackpowder Two Scenario Refight.

 Yesterday John and I tackled Blackpowder Two again in an attempt to totally digest the amendments from the original rule set. I chose to use another one of the scenarios provided in the new book, The Battle of Kernstown 1862. Luckily I have both ACW armies to tackle the game.
 The actual scenario is a well written piece but for those who havent bought the new rulebook yet I will give a quick synopsis that led to Jackson's only defeat.
 General Jackson had been withdrawing down the Shenandoah valley to cover the flank of General Johnnston's army which was protecting Richmond when Jackson discovered that the Union army facing him, led by Banks had split in two, with two divisions intent on marching back to Washington DC where it was to be attached to McCellan's army. The remaining union troops were covering the march but Banks also intended to march his remaining troops back to Washington to also reinforce McCellan. Jackson was ordered to stop this occurring and forced marched his way North to make Banks change his mind.
 Jackson caught up with remnants of the Union army, which he had been informed had scattered in various directions.The intelligence was wrong and Jackson was to find he was facing 6000 Union troops with a mere 3000 tired rebels. General Banks had been wounded in a minor skirmish and he handed the command of the remaining division to General Kimball who decided to scatter the Union brigades across the area around Kernstown whilst remaining with one brigade on a large hill that dominated the area.
 The scene was set for a confused battle with opposing generals unaware of what they were facing.The actual scenario captures the union confusion really well,the three brigades that start on the table are commanded by three brigadiers who are classed as HESITANT for 7 moves. Unfortunately the Union cavalry commander Brodhead is also classed as TIMID as well. The hesitant rule makes all command rolls that would have allowed three moves to be re rolled. The timid rule gives a -1 to any charge order and a +1 to any retreat order. Just what you need in a cavalry commander.

Brodhead! Timid, hesitant and an abject failure.

The TINY rebel infantry regiments were to play havoc with my artillery throughout the game.
 All the Union regiments were large which gave the majority a higher stamina capability and extra dice when firing and in melee.Also the Union had no Commander in Chief and one brigade off table until move 8. So quite a tall order for the Union side. Naturally I lost the dice roll and received the Union troops. But they did gain a victory on the day.
 John meanwhile was in command of a much smaller force led by Jackson who had a rating of 9! and with four brigadiers whom he could rely upon. The confederates also were classed as ELITE +5, most with a rebel yell capability and a morale save of +3. This was to prove very important. So a much smaller attacking force but with better potential to hit hard.
 The only Rebel troops on the table was Ashby's cavalry command which to be fair was made up of two TINY units and a horse artillery battery. It shouldnt have caused too much trouble to the much larger Union cavalry command, except of course they were led by that military genius Brodhead who managed to fail his opening two moves thus allowing Ashby to shoot and disorder three of the five Union cavalry regiments with no loss. Thanks God for the new rule that allowed a disordered unit to use its initiative to move away from an enemy, except of course John kept following up making certain these units couldnt rally. 

 My other two brigades fared no better as Kimball and then Burk also failed to give an order.After five moves my Union command was in complete disarray as the confederates began to advance towards the confused enemy. Luckily fate changed as the Union swung into action and deployed into a meaningful defensive line. I threw some uncharacteristic decent firing dice only to watch as the Stonewall brigade saved hit after hit.
 One rule that causes argument is the BLUNDER rule, where a player when he is throwing his command dice throws a double six.The troops affected by this have to throw again to see what they do in the confusion. I managed to throw FOUR! blunders in the battle courtesy of the HESITANT re roll rule. Two were to cause uncontrolled advances towards the enemy. One unfortunately caused one of my artillery batteries to advance unsupported which allowed John to hit it in the flank and destroy it with ease. The second allowed the flank of one of my infantry brigades to be left in the open.
 Step in Ashby with one of his infernal TINY cavalry units who simply rode down the flank, destroying another artillery battery, courtesy of a FOLLOW ME order.
 Ashby was to repeat this feat later in the battle and hit a disordered infantry regiment in the flank [again] and rout it.
By move seven the union were hanging on [just] the rebels seemed to be slowing down and I was now allowed to dispense with the HESITANT rule. Brodhead finally was able to issue a charge order which hit an over exuberant advance by a confederate regiment in the flank. A great success by my military genius! Unfortunately he got a tad carried away and attempted to repeat the feat by ordering a second charge, except this was a frontal charge against a fresh unit. That caused the end of Brodheads command which became SHAKEN and was forced to retire from the table. Move 8 should have seen my reinforcements march onto the table, except Brigadier Tyler failed his command order. Move 8 saw Burk's command become SHAKEN and also begin to retire.
So all that was left holding the enemy back was Kimball who had two disordered regiments and two SHAKEN regiments. Luckily John was having to re organise his brigades which gave me a small breathing space. Surely Tyler would march to the sound of the guns on move nine?  True to form he threw high and I called an immediate halt to proceedings giving John a great victory. 

Man of the Match, Brigadier General Ashby, two great charges and some fine skirmishing!

So how did the game play out, apart from another defeat for me. I really enjoyed the battle. The scenario is a toughie especially for Jackson, IF the Union are able to react to the advance of the rebels. It is a smallish battle of 12 regiments a side and is meant to last 12 moves. The game felt bigger than that and we used all of the 10 feet table as we careered around the terrain.
   The amendments add to the game although some of the rules are still scattered throughout the new book which causes you to thumb through the pages looking for the relevant section. John and I are not certain about the idea of an Aide de Camp, but as we play more games I will decide then. I do think the fact that a C in C cannot issue their own orders separate from the brigadiers is an improvement.I also like the support rules which are clearer and make for sensible planning 
[ something I dont do]
As for the actual game. Yes I got a whupping, but it was an enjoyable experience and although frustrating I still enjoyed the game although I would have liked a sharpshooter to blow Ashby from his horse. Now if I can just get some people interested in refighting the Antietam scenario.                

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Fiasco 2018.

 Well today I traveled down to the Leeds show based opposite the excellent Leeds Armoury.It was very cold and very wet on the way down but it didn't seem to put off wargamers attending the show which was very busy from the opening.Outside of the museum and opposite the show was this iconic spitfire, something we should be very proud of.
The show itself? Well it used to be based in the museum which was great for all attendees, but for some reason it moved across the courtyard to a large hall that used to be named after Jimmy Saville! [Before his fall from grace he had been a bit of a local hero in Leeds.] The venue is fine as regards access, there is a large multi storey carpark nearby, although parking isnt free and the hall itself is large enough. The area for refreshments isnt very big however and finding a seat can be a problem. The real issue is the fact the ceiling and walls are decorated? in black sheets, God knows why. It reminds me of some of the night clubs I used to frequent in the 1980's. As a result lighting can be a real problem and certainly I struggled attempting to buy some paint from a stall. One punter used their torch app to see the colours.
 One reason I wanted to attend the show was to see James Roach's Battle of Ravenna in the flesh. I knew it would be a wonderful spectacle and I wanted to check out his wonderful figures to see if I could pinch a few ideas for some new units I want to add to my Italian Wars armies. I also want to refight the battle myself so wanted to get some pointers about unit sizes etc. I wasnt disappointed, the battle was a wonderful affair and the units beautifully painted. James always presents a great game with clear but unobtrusive information re the actual commanders etc. And all units painted with enamels, which he assures me are quick to use. Brilliant.

 I can only apologise for some of the images, between the naff lighting and my camera playing up.
 Although I didnt really need anything, I managed to buy a box of Perry plastics,an ACW church, some Perry Napoleonic limbers and horses, a lot of paint brushes and some paint? The last two will be added to my extensive collection of unused paint and brushes.I almost succumbed to buying the new Helion books on the Great Northern War but managed to stop myself. They looked great reference books.
Of the other games, well they looked okay, and people seemed to be having fun, but there was only really one game for me. I did like the Durham Wargames club game and liked the idea of using the old Games Workshop Historical Ancient rules. A lot of dice though. Sadly my photographs of the game were very poor and didnt do the game justice.Still it was nice to see the lads there.

 So as a wargames show it was okay. The trade was fine and it was great to attend a wargames show after a long lay off.I was pleased that there was a large turnout, but the venue? Still poor Im afraid..

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Black Powder Two. A first review.

  I got my copy of Black Powder Two at the weekend and have been slowly reading it to see what has changed and are the changes for the better. What I have noticed and find very surprising is the lack of any type of review opinion etc from wargames bloggers regarding the 'new' rules. Very strange. I mean a lot of wargamers do use the rules and one would think that the new set would have elicited some discussion.
  Now before I start, can I say I haven't completed reading the new set but John and I did fight our first game today using the new rule book so I can comment about how it went.
 John based the inaugural game on one of the new scenarios in the book, The Battle of Elixheim from the War of Spanish Succession, except it was a much bigger battle. We dont do small.
 So each side in the game had five foot brigades and three cavalry brigades using John's lovely 10mm Malburian armies.
  I was in command of the French [naturally] John had an Austro-British army.
  The battle itself was a tense affair with all of the foot initially not on the table and one needing to throw a dice to activate them.
 To speed things along a bit, John had deployed blinds for his three cavalry brigades allowing me to put mine down where I felt they would be most effective.
  The crafty beggar had put two brigades on his right wing facing just one of my cavalry brigades and the Austrian cuirassier brigade on his left wing facing another of my cavalry brigades. So my third cavalry brigade of Bavarian cuirassiers which I placed in the centre was facing nothing!
As for the five brigades,  in the new book they mention a very simple but neat idea whereby tokens are used per brigadier. So in this battle, one of my brigades had 2 tokens, ie +2 to their command dice roll, then 3,4,4 and 5 tokens for each of the other brigadiers.
 To activate the brigade and be able to bring it on you have to get under the command score, ie the brigadier with 5 tokens who would normally be an 8 is reduced to a command score of 3 or less! to activate the brigade.  If you fail you remove one token which means next time you would need a throw of 4 or less to activate the commander. It means nothing is certain and it worked really well. Needless to say my brigades were tawdry getting into battle whereas John's did okay.

 Having now played our first game I would recommend that any players using the new rules keep their original copy close by because of the errors that are evident in the new rules.
 The new rule book looks lovely as is to be expected given who has produced it and contains the inevitable and wonderful eye candy we all enjoy.
 Sadly I spotted the first error on page 19 which was an image of some nice Napoleonic Chasseur a Cheval but which were identified in the text as 'dashing French Napoleonic cuirassiers.'
Okay it doesnt affect the rules but sadly it was a sign of things to come.

  The next glaring mistake which is more important is on page 49 and concerns the Morale dice modifier table, which has been filled in with the Command dice modifiers instead? One has to use the Quick Play sheet to get the correct information. When I first read the page I was totally confused and it was only when John explained what had happened did I realise what had occurred. God help a new wargamer or someone reading the rules for the first time.
I had read a brief synopsis of what was being changed in the rule book and one rule I have always disliked was enfiladed targets.In the old BP rules it meant double the normal fire dice which could prove devastating, it has now been amended to a normal firing throw ie 3 dice for infantry and instead of 6 dice, one can only re roll misses from the original 3 dice. I like the amendment better. It still allowed John to shake on of my regiments but it felt 'right.'.  Sadly in the Quick Play sheet the old double dice rule is still there! 
In the original rules the actual C in C figure could attempt to move units whose commanders had failed their command throw. There were penalties to pay but if a player was lucky they could repeat this with their other commands. I didnt like the rule as it seemed possible for a General to have too much influence in a game.
  They have changed that rule and introduced the use of ADC'S who act as a proxy C in C. One can ignore this and move the General into control distance of a brigade he wants to influence, but we used the idea of an ADC being sent to a Brigade to help the units move. Now only one brigade per move can be 'helped' and what it now entails is the ability to re roll a failed command by the Brigadier. Again I like the new rule although there is no actual movement rate provided  for them which again made us use a house rule. [cavalry speed]
There are always risks to brigadiers if they join a unit or do a follow me order. They can be killed. Amazingly there is still no mechanism for a replacement brigadier to take over and in theory a brigade can become leaderless. This was the same in the original Black Powder rules so we introduced the house rule that the new brigadier was one less than the original, ie if originally an 8 they became a 7. Its works for us, but what do others do? In BP2 the brigade cannot move should they lose theirs. 
The new rules have also made evading a more interesting prospect and could in theory see the evaders ending up three moves back from their original position which again I think is an improvement. I managed to chase a unit of John's dismounted dragoons away and totally out of position. Another big improvement is now shaken and disordered units can use their initiative and move away from an enemy unit although they obviously cannot reform.So gone is the sight of a disordered cavalry unit standing and being shot to pieces  without at least attempting to get out of range.

I could go on but my post would be a very lengthy affair that probably wouldn't be totally accurate given I have only had one game with the new rules and have only read a small part of the book.               Basically BP2 is an improvement on the original rules and certainly adopting ideas from Hail Caesar is a good idea. I'm certain once I have thoroughly read and played the new rules this view will be confirmed. So yes I like what I have read and played up to now.                                                   The overall impression I get unfortunately is that their release was rushed and not properly proof read. It is inexcusable that there are mistakes littered throughout the actual rules. The book costs £30.00 and for that price one should expect clarity. I dont expect to have to write over the play sheet or actual rules in the new book but of course I will in order that I dont forget where the errors are. 
  John and I are very experienced wargamers who have used Black Powder since they were originally released so we will know when the mistakes rear their heads. But God help a newcomer to these new rules. 
 Finally [thank God they say] another bugbear is there is no basic points system included in BP2, which suggests that there will be a rash of further books that will cover specific periods which is fine up to a certain extent but smacks of a little bit of greed and exploitation.
  Surely the original points system could have been retained in this new book to allow opponents to have a balanced night game.
 As for our game, I lost, but for all the right reasons and not because of some anomaly in the new rules.
So 6 out of 10. Must try harder in presentation and clarity.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Where have all the armies gone?

As the nights begin to draw in I get more time to think about wargaming matters that have been picking away at my consciousness for a while. The current thought that is disturbing my sleep is this; where have all the armies gone?
 By this I mean all the units and armies that have been painted over these last forty or so years that get sold on for various reasons. What has happened to them.
 As some wargamers will be aware I am currently [well will be when I've done these damned French ] painting English Civil War armies using Hinchliffe figures. My goal is to replicate the wonderful armies that my long suffering wargame enemy John Reidy had in the early 1980's which he inevitably sold. These armies were used at one of our very first exhibition games when we put on the Battle of Edgehill at Durham University.
 Obviously one gets nostalgic tinted glasses when one thinks of old armies, but John created two wonderful armies back then and they were an inspiration [to me especially] Sadly I couldnt afford to buy them when he sold them on. John has always been an annoyingly good painter and worse a very quick one., but because his first love was ECW these armies were particularly lovely.
 Another annoying trait he possesses are his wargames diaries which he has kept since the year dot.
  As a result I asked him to consult the 'volumes' and find out exactly who he sold his ECW armies to and when. Amazingly he has been unable to furnish me with the information, although he was able to provide details of what he bought at the Northern Militaire in 1982, which seemed very important back then but of no earthly use to a sane man.
  This lack of information started my sleepless nights.
  So just what does happen to the armies you sell?
  They never seem to surface again.
 Are never seen at shows or at club nights.
 They never seem to resurface on E Bay and the like.
 Basically they just seem to disappear into the ether.
 Given the vast increase in wargaming blog sites etc one would think I would at least see an odd image.
 Frustratingly I was able to track down and buy TWO! of the old ECW wagons that John had painted for the armies, but it was hardly a consolation more a reminder of just how nice the armies were.

 I now have an image of some nasty wargamer sat in a very large house packed with thousands of wonderfully painted figures, drooling over them and whispering 'my precious,' intent on no other person ever seeing or using them ever again. [Shaun Lowery are you reading this.]

 I can think of many other examples of wonderful armies that simply disappeared, our Napoleonic 25mm armies are a case in point, sold and never seen again period.
 I did manage to locate and buy John's old Turkish renaissance army but have never been able to locate our late Polish renaissance armies which contained lots of the old Campaign Miniatures figures. They have simply gone.
  Frustratingly, following a conversation yesterday I believe these ECW armies may have been sold to an individual called Andy Hardy? who was a member of the old Durham Wargames Group back in the early 1980's who subsequently disappeared.
  A common thread is developing here I think.
So is this the pseudonym of the arch villain who sits in a darkened room refusing to allow his purchases to ever see the light of day again? 

A case in point. Which lucky so and so bought this unit by the late great Peter Gilder and why haven't they been seen again? AND more importantly why dont I own them?

Saturday, 6 October 2018

'Old Lags?'

 John and decided to return to the ACW for this weeks battle after last weeks Carthaginian/Roman blood-fest. I was concerned that after a lay off that I would have forgotten the Pickett's Charge rules so its to the credit of Dave Brown that we were quickly back in the groove and whipping along at a fair rate.
 We normally dice for the regiments to see what capabilities they will display, being a Union General it was gratifying to have five brigades which were in the main regular with one inspirational brigadier. A handy thing to have. John's rebels were a more mixed bunch with a fair smattering of 'Old Lags' and mediocre brigadiers.
 'Old Lags' was a Paddy Griffith term I believe and described a veteran unit that would do their duty without endangering themselves too much. In the rules they receive two additional firing dice but suffer in a melee so I was confident that I could use my regulars to effect a Union victory. [fool]
 My main attack was to be on my right wing where I threw forward my elite brigade commanded by a +1 brigadier. I had high hopes for the attack. John however decided to attack on a broader front led by the 'Old Lag' regiments all in skirmish order. By God were they effective as they mowed down my artillery battery and defended a large area of broken ground against a charge by one of my regular regiments who simply disappeared under a hail of bullets and bayonets. As they disappeared the whole brigade 'faltered' which is not good and causes a paralysis in the brigade.
 On my right things were progressing nicely, as John continually struggled to get his 'green' brigade to deploy properly. I still felt fairly confident that I could turn his flank, but after my central brigade faltered I hoped to buy time by throwing in two charges against the rebel centre whilst using all my 'aide' counters[3] to effect a change of brigade orders to close up the gap that was starting to evolve.
                            It seemed reasonable. What do they say about the best laid plans.
                                             Before things began to go pear shaped............

 I foolishly threw forward a 'green' regiment in attack column to help buy some time. The unit simply disappeared under the firepower of the two rebel elite units..

   And then this happened....... This is the regiment of regulars that had been ordered to charge against a badly shot up rebel centre.  The two ones was my 'Elephant test' for them and naturally is the worst reaction one can have, notice the 11 token. A regiment has 12 strength points to start with.

This disintegration led to this.......The whole brigade leaving the centre wide open.They simply had had enough.

This one rebel battery was manned by men who never missed!
 I made the error of placing my 'Old Lag' regiments behind fences expecting the regulars to do all the hard work.

 My only real success, as my elite zouaves charged and shattered the rebel flank, a case of too little too late. But what a game. I know I can get carried away with extolling the virtues wargames rules but Dave Brown has produced a great set of rules that encompass fun, skill and a decent amount of historical feel about them.We love them.

At least we captured the train and were able to elicit it use to get back to Washington.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating